Last summer, I was in the small town of Beaufort, North Carolina, studying marine biology at the Duke Marine Lab. The entire island that housed the Nicholas School of the Environment had a total of 40 people living on it at any given point of time, and all the students were living in “dorms”. These dorms were basically cabins, and at night things went pitch dark. It was like being in the middle of nowhere. I remember when a thunderstorm hit the island during the middle of the summer session. A few friends and I went out to the dock, and couldn’t see the mainland anywhere. The horizon disappeared, as did the bounds of reality.
It was in this environment that I decided to start reading Stephen King’s IT. I had read The Shining for a class the semester before, and was excited to start his next big novel. I love scary things. Scary movies, scary books, scary houses, the works. This book, however, beside being a brick, left a LOT to the imagination. Being in the middle of nowhere did not help the shadowy figures stay out of my mind. As a result, I only really made it through half the novel, and upon coming back to campus, never really had a chance to finish it.
I’m definitely a “read the book before watching the movie” kind of person, but when I heard of the remake coming out this September of the classic adaptation of the novel, I couldn’t have been more excited. So, naturally, when I saw that there was a pre-screening of the film being held at The Manor in Squirrel Hill the night before the official release, I couldn’t resist.
The film was, to say the least, tasteful. The novel jumps between parallel story lines, and having not seen the original film adaptation, I was scared that the movie would either be too long or too confusing. The writers, however, stuck to the earlier timeline of the novel to create a solid background for further iterations, and as a result crafted a film with strong child heroes and a truly terrifying villain. Most of the film stayed true to the plot elements of the novel, which may be why Stephen King gave the film his stamp of approval.
What was slightly bothersome was that many of the jump scares were revealed in the trailer. There was an air of ambiguity regarding the exact timing of each instance, but, nevertheless, it made the film more predictable. The CGI red balloons used in the film were also a bit visually unappealing but aided in crafting an eerie supernatural atmosphere. Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard), the villain, was a new kind of terrifying. Skarsgard’s portrayal of the clown had an edge of stoic enthusiasm that Tim Curry’s lacked in the original. Pennywise looked less sentient and more broken-down, which made him easier to despise.
Like in the novel, the inexplicably brave children were the perfect balance of goofy and mature. From the difficult to digest home-life of Beverley (Sophia Lillis) to Ritchie’s (Finn Wolfhard) loud mouth, the cast was an absolute delight to watch on-screen, and pulled the story along incredibly well. The film also boated some beautiful footage of summer in Derry, Maine, which gave a much-needed touch of childhood innocence to an otherwise dark film.
If you like horror movies and haven’t been satisfied by one in a while, I would recommend IT. The plot will pull you in and it’s got its share of shockers to keep you on the edge of your seat. Do beware though — you may have trouble looking at red balloons for a while.